Transition at the Top
The smooth transition to Tom Linebarger as the new leader of Cummins in January may be one of Tim Solso’s most satisfying accomplishments.
Solso, the Company’s chairman and chief executive officer from 2000 to 2011, has long said one of his greatest sustainability challenges was finding and developing the next generation of leaders at Cummins.
In one of a series of meetings Solso and Linebarger held with employees in the fall of 2011 to discuss the Company’s future, Solso said the transition to Linebarger had been underway for five years before his retirement was announced with little fanfare in July 2011.
The change has hardly caused a ripple because people both in and outside of the Company were familiar with Linebarger and his leadership style.
“As I have said on many occasions, I have great confidence in Tom and his team,” Solso said in a final letter to employees in December 2011. “So while I leave with some sense of sadness, I am also excited about the prospects ahead for Cummins.”
Solso, 64, worked in various positions at Cummins for 40 years. At the outset of his tenure as CEO, the Company was in the midst of severe financial problems. Solso and his team, which included Linebarger, steered Cummins through those difficulties, then developed a plan for long-term financial success that has resulted in extremely strong financial results for the past two years.
Linebarger, 49, is the first engineer to become CEO at the Company, but he also has a master’s degree in business from Stanford University. He previously served as President and Chief Operating Officer at Cummins from August 2008 to December 2011 and prior to that he he served stints as the leader of the Company’s Power Generation Business and as the Company’s Chief Financial Officer. Linebarger joined Cummins in 1994.
Cummins’ new CEO says he and Solso share a common belief that they are merely caretakers of a Company with a rich history, seeking to leave Cummins in better shape than they found it.
“Tim left the Company in a much stronger condition than he found it,” Linebarger said. “That’s something I’d like to be able to do as well as he did.”
Solso, who championed Corporate Responsibility during his time as the leader of the Company, wants to stay active in that area through a family foundation. Otherwise, he says he’s trying to keep his options open as he approaches the next chapter in his life.
During that meeting with employees, he said he felt his blood pressure drop as soon he announced his impending retirement. Pointing to Linebarger, he said, “That’s the before picture.”
A wide smile came over his face as he then pointed at himself. “This is the after picture,” he said laughing.